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Nutrition 101, Calorie Basics

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There is a lot of confusion about nutrition out there. I am always asked if I’ve heard about this diet, or that supplement, or been to this website or read that book. The answer varies but one thing stays the same: at the end of the day, calories are calories and the body only needs so many of each calorie source. Some of you may be a bit confused, and it’s ok. Nutrition is not something readily taught in today’s society. If we knew, I mean really knew and understood nutrition, there would be a lot of multi-billion dollar companies out of business.

So let’s start with the basics: There are four nutrient sources of calories. A calorie (k) is the unit of energy our body receives from the nutrients we ingest. Nutrients are measured in grams (g) and the number of calories per gram of each nutrient source varies. These sources may be familiar: Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates, and Alcohol. Alcohol in this context refers only to the percentage of alcohol per volume in each beverage.

Fat has the highest calories per gram at 9k/g. Protein and Carbohydrates both have 4k/g, and alcohol has 7k/g. Manufacturers estimate the number of grams per nutrient and then the number of calories. I say ‘estimate’ because if you take a nutrition label and do the math, they rarely, if ever, add up to the numbers posted.

According a report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FDA has not done random sampling to test the accuracy of Nutrition Facts labels since the 1990s. This means you may or may not be eating what you think when your meal comes from a box or wrapper. Companies are always going to error in their favor, so the bad may be minimized and the good may be embellished. This is not the end of the world, you can always prepare your own meals, a novel ideal in today’s society I know. But, the basics can not be argued.

The nutrients in grams in unaltered meat, grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and virtually all whole, raw foods is not argued and can be found in a variety of calorie count websites and books. I am not saying stop eating prepared foods; I am just opening your eyes (a little) to the reality of your consumption. We don’t need to become paranoid; we just need to become a population that thinks for itself. Taking things at face value only benefits the person selling the product.

One comment

  1. Overall, great post. I do have to take issue with your comment about calories being calories. 500 cals of Frapacino is not the same as 500 cals of chicken, rice, broccoli, etc.

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